E-Learning and Credit Recovery: Strategies for Success

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1 E-Learning and Credit Recovery: Strategies for Success Brenda Humphrey Valdosta State University GA, United States Abstract: The purpose of this study was to describe the effects of an orientation tutorial and teacher facilitation of e-learning strategies on learners practices and attitudes while engaged in e- learning credit recovery courses. Specifically, the participants in the study were students in Performance Learning Center (PLC) classes participating in NovaNET coursework. The intervention consisted of a multimedia orientation tutorial supported by teacher facilitation. The results of the study indicated some students in the intervention increased the time spent per lesson, possibly because of increased note-taking, a strategy taught in the tutorial. Other results did not indicate a significant effect on e-learning strategies as a result of the intervention. These results could be explained by the fact that all participants in the study had previously engaged in NovaNET coursework and had already developed many of the strategies necessary for success in their e- learning endeavors. The quest to provide students with equal access to all curricula and anytime, any place learning has made the concept of virtual education more appealing (Berman & Tinker, 1997). Southern Regional Education Board member, William R. Thomas, predicted Very soon all or part of the courses of most U. S. high school students will be Internet-based (Blaylock & Newman, 2005, p. 383). A survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics indicated about one-third of public school districts had students enrolled in distance education courses during the school year (Setzer, Lewis, & Greene, 2005). Of these districts, 59% had students enrolled in online distance education. Thirty-two percent reported credit recovery as the primary reason for having distance education in their district. Credit recovery refers to earning high school Carnegie units required for graduation that have been lost due to class failure, excessive absences, or problems that arise when transferring among schools that do not utilize the same scheduling method. Georgia ranks as one of the states having the highest level of high school student dropouts, specifically a 36% dropout rate, as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2001 (MacDonald, 2005). The pressure felt by school districts to improve graduation rates and reduce dropout rates as mandated by the No Child Left Behind legislation has provided incentives for implementation of e-learning programs for credit recovery (United States Department of Education, 2001). Research has indicated online learners should possess the ability to direct and monitor their own learning (Wang & Newlin, 2000). Many students who are candidates for credit recovery programs, which are offered via e- learning platforms, are considered at-risk and may not possess the internal motivation and ability to manage their own learning. Many of these students are placed in e-learning credit recovery programs with little or no orientation. In addition, instructional encouragement is not provided during the coursework. Research has validated the need for support systems that include a comprehensive orientation to successful e-learning as well as instructional facilitation throughout the duration of the course (Kachel, Henry, & Keller, 2005; Lim, 2004; Roblyer & Marshall, ). Thus, the purpose of this study was to describe the effects of an orientation tutorial and teacher facilitation of e- learning strategies on learners practices and attitudes while engaged in e-learning credit recovery courses. The fundamental questions addressed in this study were: 1. How will e-learning strategies, as presented in the orientation tutorial and during teacher facilitation of coursework, influence student involvement in e-learning assignments? 2. How does an orientation tutorial and teacher facilitation of e-learning coursework affect student attitudes toward the use of NovaNET for the completion of academic coursework? 3. What are the experiences of a teacher/researcher during the development, implementation, and evaluation of e-learning strategies for student involvement in a NovaNET course?

2 Method Setting and Participants This study took place in a Performance Learning Center (PLC) utilizing NovaNET coursework. The program currently serves approximately 50 students and is housed in a separate facility on a high school campus of approximately 2700 students. Four classes in the core subject areas of mathematics, science, social studies, and language arts are facilitated by certified subject area teachers. Each class averages from 10 to 15 students and operates during regular school hours. Ten eighteen-year-old students, three males and seven females, participated in this action research study. The Performance Learning Center provides a business-like learning alternative to traditional high school for those students at the highest risk of dropping out of school. Students are accepted into the program based on a number of criteria. First, students are tested to make sure they are reading at a 6 th grade or higher level. Then, students who should be seniors and are in need of 1 to 3½ Carnegie units to be on track for graduation are given first priority. Intervention The intervention in this study was the completion of an orientation tutorial augmented by teacher facilitation of the strategies taught in the tutorial. The multimedia tutorial, which was less than ten minutes in length, was developed using Microsoft Producer and included narrated screen shots and demonstrations from within the NovaNET program to teach program use and key functions. It also included strategies such as goal setting, time and focus management, and note-taking and test-taking skills. The Cornell note-taking system was presented in the tutorial. This method of note-taking was developed by Cornell University Professor of Education, Walter Paulk (Darrow, 2005). It features the use of two columns, a larger one on the right side of the paper for note-taking and a smaller one on the left side for keywords and questions related to the notes. In addition, an area for a 1 to 2 sentence summary is also recommended at the bottom of each page of notes. The system was originally developed for lectures, but has proven to be successful with print and online information. The facilitation of the orientation strategies included small group and individual discussions of strategies taught in the tutorial. This facilitation was conducted after the implementation of the orientation tutorial by the language arts teacher and me. Measures The dependent variables of student involvement in e-learning coursework and student attitudes toward the use of NovaNET for completion of coursework were measured through a variety of methods. Prior to and after the intervention, a survey was completed by the students and NovaNET data were collected. In addition, a teacher journal was maintained before, during, and after the intervention to document teacher experiences in all phases of the implementation. Observations were also conducted before, during, and after the intervention period. Finally, student interviews were conducted after the intervention period. Procedures After securing student permission forms from the eighteen-year-old students present on my first visit to the PLC classes, I asked those students to complete the student survey. As I collected the surveys, I explained to the students that I would like for them to complete the orientation tutorial during my next visit. I then conducted observations for 10-minute intervals in each of the four classrooms as the participating students were not together in one class. Finally, I gathered data related to lessons completed and time spent working on those lessons from the NovaNET program on each of the students participating in the study for the five days prior to this visit. Preintervention data were collected during this visit. During my next visit students completed the tutorial as permitted by their coursework. They were provided with the orientation tutorial on compact disc, headphones, and written instructions for tutorial use. As students completed the tutorial during this visit, I provided reinforcement related to the tips and skills presented in the tutorial. I spoke with students individually and in small groups regarding their note-taking strategies offering additional help with the note-taking system presented in the tutorial. I showed a few students how to access the function key bar from the NovaNET help menu. Most utilized the keyboard guide but were not aware of this

3 program feature. The language arts teacher continued facilitation during the following days. The students participating in the study were in one of her class sections each day. My next visit consisted of follow-up facilitation as all students in the study had completed the tutorial by this time. I was able to discuss strategies with some small groups of students and with others individually. I then repeated the10-minute observations of the participating students in each of the four classrooms. The total intervention period covered ten school days. For post-intervention data, I conducted a final series of observations on my last visit to the PLC. In addition, students completed the student survey again. I randomly pulled three student permission forms to secure students for interviews. I interviewed each of these students privately using the student interview questions. I also gathered data from the NovaNET program again for five days after the intervention period. I recorded ideas in a teacher journal before development of the orientation tutorial based on my experiences with NovaNET students. These ideas were utilized in the development of the tutorial. I also recorded my reflections in a teacher journal following each of my visits to the PLC. Results Quantitative data were collected through NovaNET data, student interviews, and observations. Means were determined for the data gathered through those collection methods. Qualitative data were derived from student interviews and teacher journal entries. Data were culled and categorized. Themes surfaced that allowed for generalizations from the data. NovaNET Data Archival NovaNET data were collected for five days prior to the intervention and for five days following the intervention. The average number of lesson attempts and time spent per lesson were computed for each of the students participating in the study. An equal number of students attempted fewer lesson as attempted more lessons after the intervention. Two students attempted the same number of lessons. The average time spent per lesson attempt increased for half the students after the intervention, with four of those students having a substantial increase in time spent. The remaining students showed a decrease in the amount of time spent per lesson attempt. Student #2 had only a few second decrease in average time spent. Pre-intervention Post-intervention Student # Average time spent Average time spent Lesson attempt mean Lesson attempt mean per lesson attempt per lesson attempt : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :00 Table 1 Archival NovaNET Data Student Surveys Student surveys were administered before and after the intervention to determine students perceptions of their involvement in their NovaNET coursework. The same survey was used for pre-intervention and postintervention data collection. The survey consisted of 13 items and utilized a 4-step Likert scale. The scale ranged from a score of 1, indicating strong disagreement, to 4, representing strong agreement. The average scores for only four items showed a positive change from pre-intervention to post-intervention data collection.

4 Survey Question Preintervention Mean Post- Intervention Mean Change 1. I understand and can easily use the Nova keys functions I realize that the teacher serves as a facilitator not an instructor for my coursework none 3. I try to avoid distractions and stay focused during my NovaNET class I take notes regularly during my NovaNET lessons I utilize the notes I take on tests I read questions carefully avoiding random guessing I promptly ask for help when I have technical problems none 8. I ask to review the test when I have not been successful after several attempts I manage my time, trying not to spend too much time on one lesson or module I set daily or weekly goals for completion of NovaNET coursework none 11. I am self-disciplined to work hard and remain on task to meet my goals I work on my NovaNET coursework outside class if necessary to meet my goals I rarely miss my NovaNET class none Table 2 Student Survey Results Teacher Observations To better understand student involvement in their e-learning coursework, observations were conducted prior to the intervention, during the intervention, and following the intervention. Participating students were observed for 10-minute periods in each of the four classrooms. Frequency counts of specific behaviors were recorded, which included focusing on tasks, proper key function use, requesting assistance, taking notes, and utilizing notes. Behaviors Frequency before Frequency during Frequency after intervention intervention intervention Focusing on tasks Proper key function use Requesting assistance Taking notes Utilizing notes Table 3 Observation Results Student Interviews Structured interviews were conducted with three randomly selected students at the end of the intervention for the purpose of determining changes in student attitudes toward their NovaNET coursework. The interviews focused on five open-ended questions. Several themes emerged from the interview data. Students enjoyed the freedom of completing work at their own pace through NovaNET. Gaining course credits quickly also surfaced as a positive aspect of the program. Staying focused for several hours on the coursework presented on the computer was noted as a difficult aspect of NovaNET. All students agreed the strategies taught in the tutorial and the teacher

5 facilitation were helpful. Most indicated they were already utilizing the strategies presented in the tutorial. They were confident and motivated regarding successful completion of their NovaNET coursework. Teacher Journal During development of the orientation tutorial, I wrote down my experiences with students working on NovaNET coursework independently in a high school media center. I noted many students I observed engaging in NovaNET coursework did not take notes during the lessons and came to realize many did not know how to take notes. In addition, I also documented observations of many students wasting time by not requesting assistance when needed with bypass codes and function key operations in the program. During the intervention period, I wrote down some of my perceptions as I observed the students engaged in their NovaNET coursework in each of the PLC classrooms. Many students appeared to be taking and utilizing notes successfully. In addition, several used textbooks to aid in understanding the material presented in the lessons. Most of these students kept notebooks as well. Others did not appear to use notes or a textbook. I noted these students seemed much less focused on their work exhibiting some frustrations and seeming somewhat apathetic. The students seemed to respond positively to the tutorial and teacher facilitation. Many already employed the strategies taught in the tutorial and were confident in their ability to be successful in their NovaNET coursework. No major changes were noted in student involvement in their NovaNET coursework as a result of the intervention. Discussion How will e-learning strategies, as presented in the orientation tutorial and during teacher facilitation of coursework, influence student involvement in e-learning assignments? was my first research question. NovaNET data, student surveys, and observations were the data collection methods utilized to answer this question. When comparing the pre-intervention and post-intervention NovaNET data, I found the average time spent per lesson attempt increased for half the students, with four having a significant increase. This change could be attributed to students reading the lesson material more carefully while taking notes. Positive changes in the student survey were minimal from pre-intervention to post-intervention results. The greatest change as indicated by students dealt with managing their time, trying not to spend too much time on one lesson or module, and working on their NovaNET coursework outside class if necessary to meet their goals. A less significant change dealt with key function use and asking to review a test after several unsuccessful attempts. These changes did not provide a substantial connection to strategies taught in the tutorial and subsequent teacher facilitation. Observations indicated the tutorial had some impact on behaviors such as taking and utilizing notes. As the tutorial focused on developing note-taking skills, completion of the tutorial may have provided a small increase in the use of these particular strategies. Proper key function use also increased, with some students utilizing the onscreen function key bar for the first time. This strategy was also introduced in the tutorial. How does an orientation tutorial and teacher facilitation of e-learning coursework affect student attitudes toward the use of NovaNET for the completion of academic coursework? was the second research question. I used data collected from student interviews to answer this question. All students agreed being able to complete coursework through NovaNET at a faster pace than in the classroom was a motivating factor in itself. Most of the students in the study had previously been enrolled in NovaNET coursework and had generally developed the necessary skills to be successful. They verified the strategies taught in the tutorial and emphasized through teacher facilitation were important to successful completion of NovaNET coursework. The students interviewed also believed the tutorial would be extremely beneficial to a student s motivation and confidence levels when beginning NovaNET coursework for the first time. The final research question I addressed was What are the experiences of a teacher/researcher during the development, implementation, and evaluation of e-learning strategies for student involvement in a NovaNET course? My teacher journal entries provided data for this research question. From my previous experiences with NovaNET, students placed in NovaNET courses do not have good study skills and many times are poor students having failed courses in the past. Computerized coursework requires many of the same skills needed in a regular classroom in order to be successful. I noted the tutorial would provide the most benefit when utilized with a group of students just beginning NovaNET coursework. Several limitations affected the results of this study. First, because parent permission forms were not returned by any of the younger students, I was forced to secure student permission from the 18-year-old students in

6 the program. Therefore, the participants were spread out in multiple classrooms, making facilitation and observations more difficult. In addition, these students had previously engaged in NovaNET coursework and had already developed many of the strategies necessary for success in their coursework. This research study was originally planned for implementation near the beginning date of an after-school credit recovery program utilizing NovaNET coursework. Most students in an after-school credit-recovery program would be new to e-learning coursework and would need a great deal of guidance to be successful. Additional research in a more appropriate setting is needed to determine the effects of an orientation tutorial and subsequent teacher facilitation on student use of strategies that will ultimately make them more successful in their e-learning endeavors. Because of logistical issues dealing with a setting outside my work place and release time already utilized for research, I presented my findings in a PowerPoint presentation delivered via . The findings were shared with the teachers in the Performance Learning Center and administrators responsible for this program and other credit recovery programs utilizing NovaNET coursework. I also provided each of these parties with a copy of the tutorial used in the research. References Berman, S., & Tinker, R. (1997). The world s the limit in the Virtual High School. Educational Leadership, 55(3), Retrieved July 12, 2005, from Academic Search Premier database. Blaylock, T. H., & Newman, J. W. (2005). The impact of computer-based secondary education. Education, 125, Retrieved July 11, 2005, from Academic Search Premier database. Darrow, Rob. (2005). Uses of information LMC connection. Library Media Connection, 24(1), 33. Retrieved October 22, 2006, from Academic Search Premier database. Kachel, D. E., Henry, N. L., & Keller, C. A. (2005). Making it real online: Distance learning for high school students. Knowledge Quest, 34(1), Retrieved January 18, 2006, from Academic Search Premier database. Lim, C. P. (2004). Engaging learners in online learning environments. Tech Trends, 48(4), Retrieved October 15, 2005, from Academic Search Premier database. MacDonald, M. (2005, April 3). Dropout rates alarm state. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved January 24, 2006, from Roblyer, M. D., & Marshall, J. C. ( ). Predicting success of virtual high school students: Preliminary results from an educational success prediction instrument. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 35, Retrieved July 12, 2005, from Academic Search Premier database. Setzer, J. C., Lewis, L., & Greene, B. (2005). Distance education courses for public elementary and secondary school students: Retrieved July 15, 2005, from National Center for Education Statistics web site: United Stated Department of Education. (2001). No child left behind act of Retrieved July 15, 2005, from Wang, A. Y., & Newlin, M. H. (2000). Characteristics of students who enroll and succeed in psychology web-based classes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, Retrieved July 16, 2005, from Academic Search Premier database.

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